Maillol started his career as a painter, then designed tapestries and made decorative wooden objects in the Art Nouveau style. His first sculptures date from 1895-1896. The first were three small reliefs, carved in roundels of wood complete with the bark, and highlighted in colour: this Dancing Woman, a Woman with a Mandolin and a Woman Sitting in a Thoughtful Pose, which is in the Musee Maillol.
His first attempts at sculpture were very similar to his paintings and tapestries. They were also inspired by Gauguin's wooden pieces. But the grace and monumentality for which Maillol became famous is already discernable in these female figures. He shortly began to make statuettes, but finding the process of woodcarving too slow he modelled his figures in clay and then fired them. From 1902, thanks to the support of the art dealer Vollard who had the statues cast in bronze, he found buyers, which encouraged him to concentrate wholly on sculpture.